Objective: To examine adolescents' use of and attitudes toward accessing health information through the Internet.
Design: Cross-sectional, school-based survey.
Participants: A socioeconomically and ethnically diverse sample of 412 suburban New York 10th graders (mean [SD] age, 15.8 [0.68] years).
Main outcome measures: Accessing the Internet for health information.
Results: Half (49%) of the sampled adolescents had used the Internet to get health information. Topics most often explored through the Internet included sexually transmitted diseases; diet, fitness, and exercise; and sexual behaviors. Adolescents found Internet information to be of high value (using a composite gauging worth, trustworthiness, use, and relevance), with no significant differences related to sex, ethnicity, or mother's education. When considering 11 separate health topics, girls found it more valuable to have information on birth control, diet and nutrition, exercise, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and dating violence. Only for alternative medicine were there differences by ethnicity, and there were no differences based on mother's education for the value of having specific health information available through the Internet.
Conclusion: For adolescents, the Internet is an accessed and valued information source on a range of sensitive health issues.